5 candidates for UST coach lined up after Dela Cruz’ sudden firing
Five candidates are in the running to be the next head coach of the University of Santo Tomas men’s basketball team
Rodil Sablan, Estong Ballesteros, Bal David, Jinino Manansala and Bennett Palad, all UST alumni, are being considered to succeed Bong dela Cruz for the top post of the Growling Tigers, sources said, after the sophomore mentor has been reportedly sacked by the school.
Sablan and Ballesteros were former deputies of coach Pido Jarencio in España. Sablan is an assistant to coach Leo Isaac now with Blackwater in the PBA, while Ballesteros is supporting coach Lawrence Chongson in Tanduay in the PBA D-League.
David played almost a decade in the PBA with Ginebra and retired in 2005, while Manansala last held reins with Racal Motors in the D-League after winning championships with St. Clare College.
Palad, meanwhile, is also an ex-Gin King who is now the coach of Manila Tytana Colleges in ISAA. He is a former head tactician for the Brunei national basketball team from 2003 to 2008.
In writing, Dela Cruz remains as the head coach by virtue of his contract, which is set to expire at the end of April after his one-year extension last season.
However, a highly-placed source said that his departure from the coaching staff is inevitable following an ongoing investigation by the school regarding a “sensitive issue.” The source refused to reveal the said issue.
In a report of The Varsitarian, Institute of Physical Education and Athletics (IPEA) director Fr. Ermito de Sagon said that Dela Cruz was not suspended, but rather under probe, and cannot handle team practices until the administration comes out with a decision.
“I cannot call it a preventive suspension because we have not suspended him,” he told the campus publication. “What I am saying is that he cannot handle the practices until we have made a decision.”
De Sagon refused to disclose the focus of the investigation, and only said that it tackles the school’s “basketball program in reference to the University’s policies.”
After a forgettable 5-9 finish in his rookie season, Dela Cruz exceeded expectations and steered the Growling Tigers to the Finals in Season 78, falling to Far Eastern University, 2-1, in the best-of-3 Finals.
Also expected is an overhaul of the coaching staff and a re-evaluation of all the players, with the school trying to put its best foot forward in preparation of its UAAP hosting come Season 79.
Dela Cruz resumed practices on January 6 after the Holiday break, but from that point on, daily trainings have repeatedly been cancelled, culminating to the school cancelling all practices last week.
Another source also said that UST has yet to speak the players on why the practices were stopped or why Dela Cruz is nowhere to be found. The school, the source added, has been tightlipped on the issue and has yet to speak to Dela Cruz since then.
Upon the demands of the Growling Tigers, training resumed on Monday with Tiger Cubs assistant coach Juben Ledesma and professor Raymond Anselmo in charge.
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